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Cablegate: Advancing the Freedom Agenda in Egypt

VZCZCXRO4904
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #2206/01 1981428
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171428Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6162
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 002206

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR NEA A/S WELCH FROM AMBASSADOR RICCIARDONE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM KPAO PGOV KMPI XF EG
SUBJECT: ADVANCING THE FREEDOM AGENDA IN EGYPT

REF: A. STATE 88465
B. CAIRO 153

1. Embassy Cairo continues forceful advocacy of the
President's Freedom Agenda. Per paras 11, 14, and 15 of ref
A, it is standard Embassy Cairo practice, led by the
Ambassador, to meet with democracy and human rights
activists, oppositionists, and dissidents; to engage in
public speaking opportunities and media outreach to promote
democratic ideals and reform; and to use the full range of
programmatic and diplomatic tools of our many mission
agencies and sections to advance the Freedom Agenda. MEPI
and USAID's Democracy and Governance programs constitute
critical components of our mission's efforts. Our
USAID-backed multi-disciplinary programming is detailed in
separate democracy strategy papers that have been in
circulation between Embassy Cairo and Washington for the past
year.

2. We look forward to receiving information from NEA/FO
regarding the status of the Forum for the Future (ref A, para
16).

3. We have built the promotion of democracy into our
internal mission management processes. Each week, the
Ambassador reviews democracy promotion and the Freedom Agenda
with the country team. Each fortnight, the DCM chairs the
Institutions of Democracy Working Group (IDWG), which
coordinates democracy policy and programs among USAID and the
Embassy's Public Affairs and Economic-Political (ECPO)
sections. USAID also produces and disseminates to concerned
USG addressees (via e-mail) a monthly summary of democracy
program activities. (USG readers not currently receiving
this e-mail who wish to do so should contact
(babrams@usaid.gov).) At their orientation sessions with the
Ambassador soon after their arrivals, new American members of
the mission receive wallet cards to constantly remind them of
our mission statement: "We strengthen our partnership to
secure peace, to build democracy, and to expand prosperity,
to serve the American and Egyptian people."

4. Besides our work with civil society (examples below), our
official engagement with the GOE, spanning various agencies
and sectors, is a vital element of our strategy to promote
democracy. In particular, the Ambassador regularly raises
both broad policy concerns and specific democracy and human
rights cases with Egyptian leaders, including the President,
the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Interior
Minister and other top security officials, the Justice
Minister, the Public Prosecutor, senior judges, and
legislators.

5. Following are a few examples of our current and recent
efforts to support and promote the Freedom Agenda:

- The Ambassador's July 4 remarks, delivered to a reception
attended by an estimated 4,000 key Egyptian contacts, cited
President Bush's upholding of liberty and democracy as "the
cornerstone of our foreign policy." Per our standard
practice, we invited a full range of leading dissident and
oppositionist contacts, in full view of the media, state
security, and our more mainstream establishment contacts.
Attendees at the event included opposition Al Ghad Party
president Ehab Al Khouly, the president and other leaders of
the Al Wasat Party (an as yet unregistered opposition party),
leaders of the newly registered National Democratic Front
party, several parliamentarians, and numerous human rights
and civil society leaders and MEPI program participants.

- Over the past several months, the public affairs section
has organized numerous media events focusing on the U.S.
commitment to promoting democratic reform in Egypt. Among
these was the February 26 appearance of the Ambassador on a
popular Egyptian call-in satellite talk show. During the
90-minute program, conducted entirely in Arabic, the
Ambassador reaffirmed U.S. support for expanding rights in
the realm of free expression, better governance, transparent
election procedures, support for the release of the prisoner
Ayman Nour, and the protection of the rights of religious
minorities. Other Embassy officers have also conducted
interviews with the local media, including a June 22 live
satellite TV show on which our PAO debated an anti-American
opposition parliamentarian, and rebutted allegations of
"unwarranted interference" by the USG in Egyptian politics.
These two events alone reached millions of Egyptians.

- The Ambassador hosted a July 11 roundtable of leading
Egyptian print and broadcast commentators, which included a
lively discussion of U.S. democracy promotion, and religious

CAIRO 00002206 002 OF 003


freedom issues. The Ambassador regularly holds such
roundtables with leading journalists and editors-in-chief of
major Egyptian publications, including oppositionist critics,
in an effort to reach out to opinion shapers.

- The Ambassador will conduct the next in a series of
webchats on July 18 on "Egypt-U.S. Bilateral Relations,"
through which we hope to continue to expand our engagement
with a wide audience of web-savvy young Egyptians.

- Embassy officers regularly meet with the range of Egyptian
opposition parties, human rights advocates, civil society
activists, political analysts, and others to discuss with
them U.S. policies and garner their reactions and thoughts on
the Egyptian political scene.

- Embassy officers are continuously involved in recruiting
for and funding small grants projects through MEPI and our
in-house Institutions of Democracy Working Group. Some
examples of recent programs including training young lawyers
on human rights and democratic principles, training for
elections monitors, and anti-corruption grants

- The Ambassador and other Embassy officers regularly meet
with leading civil society activists and liberal
intellectuals such as Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Osama al Ghazali
Harb, Tarek Heggy, Hisham Qassem, Ghada Shabandar, Hala
Mustafa, and Bahia Al Din Ibrachy. We also meet leading
activist bloggers; Issandr El-Amrani (arabist.net) has twice
been a guest in the Ambassador's residence.

- On June 17, the Embassy's Regional English Language Office
hosted Debra Lee, author of "American Legal English," and
creator of the "Language 4 Law" website. Dr. Lee offered
presentations on American legal English to several Cairo
human rights NGO's, Egyptian judges, and the law faculty of
Mansoura University.

- The Embassy and USAID sponsored a June research visit on
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) issues from an expert team from
Chemonics. During the visit, the team, with Embassy
assistance, conducted seminars with Egyptian NGO's and
journalists interested in combating TIP.

- In May, as part of an effort to promote World Press Freedom
Day, Embassy Cairo conducted internet training for 15
journalists from Nahdet Misr, Egypt's first independent
newspaper.

- On March 22, the Ambassador again called on Boutros Boutros
Ghali, head of the National Council on Human Rights, to
discuss a range of human rights issues.

- On March 18 the Ambassador participated in a board meeting
and an expanded membership meeting at the Ibn Khaldun Center,
a leading Egyptian civil society organization run by Dr. Saad
Eddin Ibrahim, on the occasion of the anniversary of the
release of Ibrahim from prison. Other Embassy officers
occasionally participate in other IKC events.

- On March 14, as part of Embassy Cairo's celebration of
Women's History Month, the public affairs section arranged a
program for Susan Stroud, executive director of the
Washington based "Innovations in Civic Participation."
Stroud spoke at an Egyptian NGO to a group of 40 youth from
various non-governmental and governmental offices involved in
community development.

- On March 7, the Ambassador visited the headquarters of Al
Wafd party (Egypt's oldest political party, and current
leading opposition party). He met with twenty members of the
leadership of the party, discussing U.S. foreign policy,
including democracy promotion.

- In April and May, the Ambassador worked with the Speaker of
the People's Assembly to arrange the first U.S. Congressional
(and U.S. diplomatic) contacts in six years with the full
range of Parliamentary membership, including the leader of
the largest self-claimed "democratic" opposition bloc, the
Muslim Brotherhood "independents."

- As reported in ref B, on January 17 the Ambassador met with
Gameela Ismail, the wife of imprisoned Al Ghad Party leader
Ayman Nour. Poloff is in close and regular communication
with Ismail, and others in the Ghad leadership. Ismail has
not yet accepted the Ambassador's oft-repeated standing
invitation for another meeting, evidently out of concern that
another meeting with the Ambassador could have negative
ramifications on the legal efforts to get her husband

CAIRO 00002206 003 OF 003


released on health parole. We consult most closely with
Ismail, in particular, on how official USG statements,
including by the Ambassador, can best support her legal
strategy in support of Ayman Nour's release. An Embassy
oficer is present at nearly all hearings in Nour's case.
This recently drew an explicit objection from the prosecutor,
whom the judge promptly over-ruled.

- On January 14-15, the Embassy sponsored the visit to Egypt
of renowned author and Harvard University Public Policy
Professor Robert Putnam, to discuss with Egyptians the recent
Arabic translation (funded by the Embassy) of his book
"Making Democracy Work." In Alexandria, Putnam addressed a
large audience of academics, students and journalists at the
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, regarding the role of social capital
in promoting and enhancing democracy. In Cairo, Putnam led a
roundtable discussion with researchers and journalists at the
Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies, and held
a lunch with several leading Egyptian journalists and
intellectuals.

- The public affairs section has supported numerous civic
education activities, such as NGO headed by a former
government education official which trained hundreds of
teachers from public schools. We also supported the media
component of "Project Citizen," an extracurricular activity
project undertaken by the California-based Center for Civic
Education, aimed at fostering leadership and tolerance among
school children.

- The Embassy continues to send dozens of journalists and
civic activists to the U.S. to experience various facets of
American democracy under the International Visitor Program.
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